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Related Words, Beliefs, Background for Choice #5

        Worldview Theme #8A: Monotheistic Deism            Worldview Theme #8B: Belief in a Personal God

for summary read these 5 entries: Big Bang Theory, God arguments for existence of, intelligent design, Distant God, miracle

for summary read these 5 entries in order: religion definitions of, personal God, praying, God the purposes of a personal, grace 

abundant life / community of abundance—some Christian teaching promotes the idea that, after accepting the redeeming power of God, as one is cleansed of sin one begins a new relationship with God in which one can expect to have an abundant life full of meaning, physical health and material wealth. Another (New Age) spiritual tradition asserts that humanity is on the threshold of a new era associated with such things as peace, love, and a “united community of abundance.”

agnostic / agnosticism-- with respect to the question "Does God exist?" agnostics feel that they no relevant knowledge so they are neither believers nor skeptics--they simply don't know!

angel -- a bodiless, spiritual being, limited in power and intelligence, but nonetheless superior to man. In traditional belief in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, good angels live in heaven , are able to visit Earth (in both visible and invisible forms), are sometimes depicted with wings, and sometimes provide messages and / or offer protection. Dark angels, living in hell, are the evil counterparts of good angels.

anthropomorphism -- a general term which refers to interpreting something that is not human by positing human characteristics; in theology, it refers to the belief that God is like human beings in at least some respect.

atheist--a person who doesn't believe in God.

Authoritarian God -- the 2006 Baylor Religion survey identified this as one of "America's Four Gods". God is seen as highly engaged with and involved in individual daily lives.  He (most identified God as such!) is believed to be very capable of punishing individuals and people in general, in particular those who are sinful or ungodly. Many God believe is quite angry. 

Benevolent God -- the 2006 Baylor Religion survey identified this as one of "America's Four Gods". God is seen as highly engaged with and involved in individual daily lives.  God is viewed as a force of positive influence and is believed to be less likely to punish or condemn people.  

Big Bang Theory–the cosmological theory that the observable universe began with everything (all matter, energy, etc) in an incredibly compact, hot, dense state, after which an event (the Big Bang) occurred that began the universe's currently observed expansion.   More observational support comes from the detection and study of a primordial fireball radiation remnant left over from the early days of the universe,  and continuing confirmation of the amounts of elements –notably helium–formed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang (currently believed to be roughly fourteen billion years ago).  The theory was refined in the 1980s with the important addition of an "inflationary era" to the universe’s initial moments

Christianity -- a monotheistic religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the New Testament of the Bible. Christians believe Jesus, a Jew who lived in Palestine 2000 years ago, to be the son of God, sent to Earth to save mankind from sin.  For Christians, the cross symbolizes the cross on which Jesus was nailed to and killed.  They believe that three days later he rose from the dead, and some forty days after this resurrection ascended to Heaven.  Christians believe that God is a Trinity: the Father (God), the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.  Christian Church authority was originally (by the 4th century) centered in the Roman Catholic Church, headed by the Pope. Two schisms have since undermined that authority: 1) by the 14th century the Eastern Orthodox Church had completed its breakaway from Rome, and 2) the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century saw Catholicism splinter into what became various Protestant denominations.

conscience--a sense of 1) what is morally / ethically right or wrong, and 2) which actions a) will produce more pleasure and happiness vs. more pain and suffering, b) will be praised vs. blamed, c)  potentially promise benefits vs. involve risks and potential liabilities.  When conscientious behavior and actual behavior diverge, guilt and feelings of remorse can result.  H.L. Mencken referred to it as "the inner voice that tells us that somebody might be watching." Some connect conscience with religion: it has been termed "God's voice."  Others make no such connection.  

creation ex nihilo--creation out of nothing: how God created the universe. This is what many Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe based on verses from the Bible and the Qu'ran.

creationism -- a belief shaped by religious sacred texts that all life and most notably the human species resulted from a specific act of creation performed by a supreme being, rather than from processes involving evolution. Biblical creationism attributes creation to God, a modern revision to an “Intelligent Designer”.

Critical God -- the 2006 Baylor Religion survey identified this as one of "America's Four Gods". God is seen as not interacting with individuals or involved with the world. Nonetheless God still views the world and is believed to be very displeased with its current state. This displeasure will become evident as appropriate in one's life after death (many feel that "divine justice may not be part of this world"). 

dark night of the soul--a phrase first used by 16th century Spanish poet and Christian mystic St. John of the Cross, it now refers to times--perhaps triggered by suffering associated with tragedy, or other painful crisis--when a spiritual person's faith is challenged by feelings of meaninglessness, desolation, and loneliness.  During such times, people may feel that God has abandoned them or no longer hears their prayers.  Some use the experience to transform their relationship with God and emerge from the ordeal with renewed strength to carry on.

dark night of the soul, America’s --"Where was God on September 11, 2001?" many Americans wondered.  In the aftermath of Islamic extremists striking a blow for Allah, dreaming of heaven, and attacking the most Christian of nations, some became even more disturbed by all religion.  One of those was Sam Harris, whose concern motivated him to write The End of Faith.  There he points the finger at sacred books of great religions: "each making an exclusive claim as to its infallibility."  He laments that "intolerance is... intrinsic to every creed" and that "certainty about the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance in this one."  After connecting the attack with the behavior of the supposedly ungodly (pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, lesbians), the American Rev. Jerry Falwell said,  "If we decide to change all the rules on which this Judeo-Christian nation was built, we cannot expect the Lord to put his shield of protection around us as He has in the past."

deist --one who believes in the existence of God or a Supreme Being but denies that God is personally concerned with humans and the validity of supposed divine revelation; see also deism 

deism -- a monotheistic belief in God, who is believed to not interfere with the workings of the universe which proceed according to natural laws , combined with rejection of formal, organized religion

Distant God -- the 2006 Baylor Religion survey identified this as one of "America's Four Gods". God is seen as not interacting with individuals or involved with the world, but not angry. Rather God is viewed more in terms of a "cosmic force which set the laws of nature in motion" 

dualism of substance-- an answer to the classical One / Many problem that asserts that Reality is ultimately composed of two different kinds of substance, typically referred to as mind (or spirit) and matter.

evangelism--involving a militant or crusading zeal, for example, evangelical Christians efforts to convert others to Christianity.  According to Rick Warren, that was one of God's purposes in creating human life. 

evil, the problem of–this problem has plagued philosophers at least as far back as the ancient Greeks. Epicurus (341-270 BCE) appears to be the first to consider it at some length.  Simply put, it has two aspects, one religious, one secular, that can themselves be stated as questions.  First, why does an all powerful, all knowing God allow evil to exist in the world?  Second, how should society fight human’s wicked and evil acts–won’t fighting them with evil (violence, vengeance, capital punishment, etc.) just result in more evil?  Those who embrace non-violence, forgiveness, and oppose capital punishment basically feel that good can not come out of evil.  Others argue that if evil is left unchecked and unpunished, and not countered with strong action, then more evil will result.

evil, the problem of  and how various religions handle it –Christianity--from the Bible's book of Job onward, it recognizes there is a problem; Islam --Evil, pain, and suffering is not a problem: it is a fact of Allah's creation.  And Allah does not owe man any explanations...As the holy Qu'ran (4: 78) puts it: "Whatever good befalleth thee, O man, it is from GOD; and whatever evil befalleth thee, it is from thyself."; Hinduism-- "For Hindu thought, there is no Problem of Evil.  The conventional, relative world is necessarily a world of opposites.  Light is inconceivable apart from darkness; order is meaningless without disorder; and likewise...pleasure without pain." (Alan Watts in The Spirit of Zen);  Buddhism--Buddhists use the existence of evil as a reason not to believe in God as a benevolent, loving Creator.  As the Bodhisattva sings, "If the creator of the world entire they call God, of every being be the Lord, why prevail deceit, lies and ignorance and he such inequity and injustice create?  If the creator of the world entire they call God, of every human being be the Lord, then an evil master is he, (O Aritta) knowing what’s right did let wrong prevail! (from Bhuridatta Jataka)  

faith -- firm belief, complete confidence and trust in something for which there is no proof, often associated with religion and typically linked more to the one's  feelings / emotions  than one's rational / analytical side. Some give this concept a deeper meaning.  Christian  philosopher Paul Tillich connected it with "ultimate concern" as in what should be the ultimate concern to which one's life should be devoted.  In his book Stages of Faith, James Fowler views finding faith as ultimately finding "an overarching, integrating and grounding trust in a center of value and power sufficiently worthy to give our lives unity and meaning."

fellowship--involves people communicating and sharing their lives and concerns with each other--not surprising given that humans are social creatures!  In some settings, such as churches, this companionship can involve mutual respect and perhaps unselfish love.  While the desire of lone individuals to share common interests or participate in activities requiring others fosters much fellowship, according to M. V. C.  Jeffreys (in his 1962 classic Personal Values in the Modern World) "the natural and original context for fellowship is the family."  

Gaia / Gaia Hypothesis -- Gaia, the ancient Greek earth goddess, has been resurrected in recent years as a sort of presiding spirit of the Earth. According to the Gaia Hypothesis, the whole Earth is in some sense alive and functions as single self regulating organism.

God, arguments for existence of--from classical philosophy come three such arguments, summarized as follows: 1) cosmological--based on the assumption that every event has a cause, one looks back for causes behind events to the first event: the beginning of the universe. This "first cause" is linked to God.  2) ontological--based on defining God as a perfect being, realizing that such perfection requires God be complete and lack no attributes, certainly God must  exist!  3) teleological--given obvious evidence of design in the universe, it must have had a designer.  William Paley (1743-1805) provided the famous watch / watchmaker analogy often used here.  

God, omniscience and omnipotence of -- many conceive of God as all knowing and all powerful, with infinite knowledge and power.  Use of infinity, in both mathematical and philosophical conceptions, can lead to difficulty and contradiction.  Here's a relevant one, provided by cybernetic pioneer Norbert Wiener: "Can God make a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it?  If He cannot, there is a limit to His power...if He can, this seems to constitute a limitation to His power too."  Those who value free will have qualified God's omniscience by restricting it to knowing everything that can be known--excluding the free choices human agents will make in the future.  Restricting God's knowledge in this regard can be avoided, but it comes at the expense of restricting His power: by assuming God knows everything that is to happen in the future, but lacks the power to doing anything to alter that future. 

God, the purposes of a personalone answer to the question "What on Earth am I Here For?"  God's Purposes—based on The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren  1) Worship (for His pleasure)   2) Fellowship (to be part of His family)  3) Discipleship (you can be like His Son)  4) Ministry (you can serve Him) 5) Evangelism (to be part of His mission.) Note those whose Personal God is conceived of in terms other than a Father figure may be put off by this list! 

God, word of--many monotheistic religions view their sacred text as being the word of God, if not literally, then certainly providing a lesson or message inspired by God.  Another interpretation of this phrase connects with the creation of the universe and the Greek term logos--which some Christians translate as "word". Thus the first verse in the Christian Bible (translated from Greek) can be read as "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Others in the West have connected logos with thought, reason, logic, the underlying order of reality, etc; in the East it's most notably been linked with tao and dharma.     


grace -- a person’s belief -- sometimes difficult to sustain given hardships or evidence to the contrary -- that God , Nature or Reality is ultimately on his or her side and will occasionally gift one with unwarranted help. Those who more fully embrace its existence may use the term “miraculous” (or “amazing” as in the song!) in describing grace.

historical metaphorical interpretation -- the practice of interpreting sacred texts from both historical and metaphorical viewpoints, rather than from a literal / infallible God viewpoint. Biblical scholar Marcus Borg has most notably used this practice in interpreting the Bible.

immanence vs. transcendence -- this is a distinction between whether God exists within, remains within, and acts within the physical universe (immanence), or whether God is set apart from or transcends the physical universe (transcendence). Some religious philosophies (panentheism) seem to have it both ways!

intelligent design -- is, according to the Discovery Institute which has promoted it, the belief that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection”

Islam -- a monotheistic religion based on the teachings of Mohammad, an Arabian prophet who lived around 1400 years ago, as laid down in the Koran (or Qur’an).  Those who believe in Islam are called Muslims (or Moslems) and seek to live in submission (Islam means "submission" in Arabic) to the will of God (known as Allah).  Muslims believe in the "Five Pillars of Islam"-- faith, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage.  The crescent and star are Islamic symbols.  Most Muslims are either Sunnis (85%) or Shi'a (15%).  Their differences can be traced to disputes over who were the rightful  leaders of the Muslim community in decades after the death of Mohammad in 632.  Sufism is a mystical --ascetic brand of Islam.

introspection -- the process of looking inside one’s mind, recalling events, memories, sensory experiences, etc, and, after this mental examination, perhaps reflecting on the experience.

Judaism -- the religion of the Jews, the oldest of the great monotheistic religions. Sacred texts include the Old Testament of the Bible, Torah, and Talmud. Jews believe that God revealed Himself to them and gave them rules to live by.  The Bible recounts how God made a covenant with Abraham (perhaps around 1900 BC) and how He sent Moses (around 1300 BC) to lead the Jews out of slavery in Egypt.  The six pointed star and a candelabra (menorah) are symbols of Judaism.   

Judeo-Christian-Islamic Conception of God -- this is based on likening the relationship between man and God to the relationship between a child and his father. Of course a child eventually grows up and becomes independent of his father, whereas, here, man does not: he is always subject to God’s authority and must obey his commands. 

miracle -- an act of God or some supernatural being that violates the laws of physics

panentheism -- unlike pantheism, which equates God and the universe, panentheism extends this with the following beliefs: 1) there is more to God than the material universe, as in “the whole is more than the sum of the parts”, 2) God is the animating force behind the universe, 3) as the Creator, God exists and remains within all Creation, and 4) God is the source of a universal morality.

paternalism -- a system in which adults are treated in a fatherly way like children, with their conduct regulated and their needs met. Typically in exchange for this care, the authority expects loyalty and that those receiving the care will accept their relinquishing personal control.

personal God -- the definition employed here is a narrow one: a God who takes a personal interest in the world and, in particular, in individual worshippers. (Many add to this the idea that a God who is so personally concerned with them will intervene on their behalf, performing miracles or whatever.) This is to be contrasted with a broader definition of this term in which God is conceived of as a person, and thus has a personality.

pandeism--an extension of deism which asserts that in the beginning there was God, who created the Universe, which, while now seemingly consists of multitudes of discrete separate entities, in its entirety equals God and will eventually condense back into a single entity.  

pantheism–the belief that God is everywhere, inherent in all things, acting through natural laws and forces. The words of  American poet Robinson Jeffers describe this belief:  "I believe that the Universe is one being, all its parts are different expressions of the same energy, and they are all in communication with each other, therefore parts of one organic whole...The parts change and pass, or die, people and races and rocks and stars, none of them seems to me important in itself, but only the whole.  This whole is in all its parts so beautiful, and is felt by me to be so intensely in earnest, that I am compelled to love it and to think of it as divine. " (from his 1934 letter to Sister Mary James Power)   "...Man dissevered from the earth and stars and his history ... for contemplation or in fact... Often appears atrociously ugly.  Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe.  Love that, not man Apart from that, or else you will share man's pitiful confusions, or drown in despair when his days darken."  (from his work  The Answer)  

placebo effect -- An observed effect in an experimental patient group, typically a slight positive improvement in their health when compared to a control patient group, that is caused by administering a placebo, defined as a preparation with no medical or pharmacological value. The effect is believed to be connected to patient expectations. 

process theology--building on a non-deterministic philosophy that stresses the process of "becoming" rather than the state of "being,"  process theologians believe that God organizes and orders events in a universe of free agents by encouraging rather than coercing.  Many of their beliefs can be traced to British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), for whom God was less of an omnipotent creator / ruler and more of a participant in an ongoing creative process.

prayer, therapeutic effect of -- while accounts of faith healers' successes go back to ancient times, many modern investigators have cited evidence for a positive therapeutic effect on the health of people who pray or are prayed for. Skeptics have dismissed this suggestion or attributed an improvement to a placebo effect. In an attempt to use scientific methods to measure the effect of people praying for the well being of individuals undergoing heart bypass surgery, a three year study involving church groups praying for 1800 patients was conducted. The results, reported in the April 4, 2006 issue of the American Heart Journal, found no statistically significant difference in the survival or complication rates of heart patients who were prayed for versus those who were not.

praying -- to many, the making of a humble request of God -- often preceded by confession and accompanied by praise, evidence of adoration, expression of gratitude, promises, etc. To Ambrose Bierce, praying means asking “that the laws of the universe be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy” In general, praying is initiating communication with God, a Deity, higher power, Cosmic Mind, etc.  Often it is done to seek guidance or a solution to a problem. 

rationalism–a philosophical orientation that links finding ultimate truth to employing reasoning.                                                    

reason vs. faith—essentially the distinction here is between belief supported by facts and concepts, ultimately linked to observation and experience, which fit together in a coherent way as part of a useful, logical framework, and belief for which there is no such basis, but instead only one’s unshaken feeling of confidence, trust, and willingness to believe.  When one’s knowledge and experience is limited, belief can be extended based on trusting the authority of someone else, rather than doing one’s own investigation into the rational basis for belief.  Sometimes, there is no way to rationally or scientifically decide and anyone holding such belief holds it through faith.  In this way faith can be connected with belonging.  Some see faith as a valid basis for knowledge, others say it provides no such basis.  Some see reason as threatening faith--meaning as one increasingly relies on it, one’s reliance on faith diminishes.

religion, definitions of--one of those difficult to define terms. In his classic, The World's Religions, Huston Smith defines it broadly as "a way of life woven around people's ultimate concerns" or more narrowly as "a concern to align humanity with the transcendental ground of its existence."  Synthesizing, and building on these, religion can be defined as involving beliefs, behaviors, feelings and devotion or obligation to faith in the divine or what is held to be of ultimate importance. Two narrower definitions are: 1) the worship of, and service to, God or the supernatural, and 2) a belief system associated with traditionally defined or formally institutionalized ceremonies or rituals.  

religion, alternate definitions ofranging from positive / upbeat to negative / downcast, and associated with particular people are as follows: 1) "man's response to ultimate concerns in terms of the ultimate" (Tillich); 2) "adds strength to frailty, fulfillment to frustration, wholeness to incompleteness" (Bewkes);  3) "a feeling of creaturely dependence on God" (Schleirmacher); 4) about healing the "brokenness" that happens when ego triumphs over spirit producing a condition of being "terribly and tragically alone" (Collier); 5) "a technique for success...a desperate measure that people resort to when the stakes are high and they have exhausted the usual techniques for the causation of success" (Benedict & Pinker); 6) "the childlike condition of humanity...knowledge of God is self-knowledge" (Feuerbach);  7) "a childhood neurosis–God is a father projection" (Freud).

sacrifice–giving up something precious or important as offering to honor or placate a god, deity

soul -- another term difficult to define. Here are three definitions: 1) the vital spirit in all human beings; 2) the part of a human being that is immortal; 3) the feeling /emotional domain of one’s personality.

spirit-- another term difficult to define.  Here are three definitions:  1) an animating principle or vital force that gives life to organisms. It accounts for the difference between a living being and dead corpse.  2) A non-physical, non-quantifiable substance or energy present in living things   While spirit is sometimes considered synonymous with soul, for many this latter term implies having an immortal existence--something not necessarily attributed to spirits. 3) an apparition, ghost, demon, sprite, or supernatural being.  Of course God falls in this last category. It should be noted some conceptions of spirit include the belief that all individual spirits interconnect to form a greater unity, oneness, Cosmic Mind, etc.

spirituality--can be narrowly defined as the quality or state of being spiritual--which relates to matters pertaining to vital spirit or soul--or it can be much more broadly considered.  Definitions that fit into this latter category are: 1) "the process and result of nurturing one's soul and developing one's spiritual life" (David N. Elkins),  and 2) "one's spirituality is the range of one's emotional relationships to those questions that cannot be answered..."like  'What happens when you die?'"(Jaron Lanier).  Some confine their spirituality to the boundaries provided by traditional religion;  others look elsewhere to meet their spiritual needs.  3) In recent years Project Worldview has begun promoting a new way of metaphorically looking at spirituality—as the domain at the intersection of what both our heads and our hearts tell us is fundamentally important.

teleology -- the idea that there is a design or purpose inherent in everything and belief that events unfold toward some divinely specified ultimate end or that everything strives to fulfill some purpose.

theism--belief in the existence of God or gods and in their active intervention in human affairs, their control of nature and the workings of the universe.

theological --related to the nature, character, and will of God as revealed to and studied by humans; see also theology

theology -- the rational study of religious faith, experience, and practice.

unconditional love—refers to love and affection that is pure and untainted, has no limits, bounds, conditions and is constant / unchanging.  Examples: 1) the human relationship that most immediately comes to mind is a mother’s love for her new born child; 2) those who believe in a personal God, and equate God with love, might say this is the love God has for all of us.  Note many Christians do not value conceiving of God in this fashion as much as valuing the supposed salvation that accepting God’s love can provide.  This belief—and the accompanying concern that the person may burn in Hell unless they do this—only makes possible their extending  love that is conditional.  A similar “dogmatic belief gets in the way” problem exists for Moslems.

worship--the religious practice of reverently honoring, praising, and showing devotion to God or gods. 



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